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Where are the swing voters?

Posted: 29 Apr 2013 05:24 PM PDT

When the opinion poll showed that the BN and Pakatan Rakyat are well-matched in strength, I must again stress that if the poll is accurate, the final decision of the 9% middle voters can indeed affect the outcome of the election and play the role of the last straw. The question is, who can tell Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim where the middle voters are?

Lim Mun Fah, Sin Chew Daily

On the sixth day before the general election, the BN and Pakatan Rakyat have basically completed their respective deployments to consolidate their basic support. It is expected that the following strategy would focus on fighting for the support of middle voters.

Some people asked whether there are still middle voters at this stage.

Theoretically, middle voters exist until votes are cast. However, as the polling day is approaching, the number of middle voters will gradually decrease. The latest opinion poll of the Universiti Malaya Centre for Democracy and Elections (UMCEDEL) has reflected such a phenomenon. Compared to March, the number of middle voters has fallen by 6% to 9%, with most of them Malays.

If the poll is credible, it has then conveyed an important message, namely the 9% middle voters is going to be the final kingmaker of the 13th general election.

When it comes to the key role of middle voters, the most commonly known would be the Median Voter Theorem. According to the theory, if there is only two candidates with well-matched basic support in an election, the campaign strategies of the candidates must focus on middle voters to gain more votes.

When it comes to implementation, however, there is no absolute standard to define "middle" line. Moreover, there are more than one election issue and thus, it is not easy to accurately strike the balance and meet the expectations of middle voters.

Moreover, even middle voters can be divided into different groups according to their racial identities, family backgrounds, education levels and political awareness.

As I know, middle voters are not necessarily fence-sitters with no political stand or party preference. Instead, they might be members of a political party without a strong party spirit and are not willing to be controlled by the party. Therefore, they insist to be independent voters.

Of course, there are also middle voters who have no political party preference. They are well-educated and reject blind obedience. They can think rationally before making prudent judgement. They refuse to blindly follow and thus, are more careful in making comparison in terms of political platform and election manifesto of various parties, while observing the words and deeds, as well as qualities of candidates, before making a decision and cast their votes.

In addition, there are also some so-called "middle voters" who are not interested in politics at all. They do not care about politics, and some are even indifferent to politics. Of course, they have no political knowledge, not to mention political ideal. Such kind of voters either choose not to vote or can easily be affected by their families and friends. They might even just follow the majority's preference to vote for the party with a higher winning odds.

When the opinion poll showed that the BN and Pakatan Rakyat are well-matched in strength, I must again stress that if the poll is accurate, the final decision of the 9% middle voters can indeed affect the outcome of the election and play the role of the last straw. The question is, who can tell Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim where the middle voters are?


PAS playing dangerous game

Posted: 29 Apr 2013 02:38 PM PDT

If PAS continues with its 'Islam superior' stance, there is little chance for Pakatan to win big in the May 5 general election dubbed as the 'mother of all elections'.

Jeswan Kaur, FMT

Islamic party PAS cannot distinguish the tree from the woods with its stubbornness in wanting only a Muslim leader to serve as prime minister.

In his pre-election ceramah or speech recently, PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang said the party stand was that only Muslims can be the prime minister of this country.

Saying that anybody can be a minister regardless of whether the person was a Muslim or a non-Muslim if the opposition pact under the Pakatan Rakyat banner formed the next government after the May 5 general election, Abdul Hadi added:

"Non-Muslims can work with Muslims to administer this country on condition the prime minister must be a Muslim.

"The person in charge of policies must be a Muslim in an Islamic nation. If he is a non-Muslim, then he should embrace Islam.

"For instance, for the Works Minister's post, if the person picked is a non-Muslim, but he has the knowledge and expertise in road and building construction, we will appoint him, but we will not appoint a non-Muslim to take charge of mosques."

With only days to go before Malaysians step out to choose the government of their choice, Hadi's defiance and acerbic remarks have not gone down well with Malaysians.

But then Hadi is not alone. PAS deputy spiritual leader Haron Din says that hudud will take effect if Pakatan comes into power upon winning the 13th general election.

PAS' move to implement hudud never sat well with DAP, but Haron could not care less and says hudud it is if Pakatan makes it to Putrajaya, regardless of whether DAP is against the move.

"I'm confident that DAP will accept hudud because of its willingness to contest under the PAS symbol. However, this can only be done after Pakatan is given the mandate to rule the country.

"Pakatan must take over the federal government. Only then can we amend the (Federal) Constitution to implement hudud," Haron had said.

Haron, who is the candidate for the Arau parliamentary seat, is of the opinion that Pakatan parties must "give and take" in order to work together.

Whose cause is PAS championing?

PAS a few years ago had enacted hudud (prescribed Islamic penalties) in Kelantan, to be imposed only on Muslims who represent about 90% of the state's 1.5 million population.

The laws introduced Syariah punishments for theft, robbery, adultery, liquor consumption and apostasy.

It is not just hudud. Haron also wants DAP to concur with PAS' decision not to allow the use of the term "Allah" by non-Muslims.

Looks like both Hadi and Haron have forgotten that their existence as politicians is not to serve vested interests but that of the rakyat.

If PAS continues with its "Islam superior" stance, there is little chance for Pakatan to win big in the May 5 general election dubbed as the "mother of all elections".

It is not just the hudud and "only Muslim prime minister" that PAS has set its sight on. The party's "new kid on the block", the former Selangor menteri besar, Muhammad Muhammad Taib, has wasted no time in declaring that Islam is the way of life, saying that all Muslim women should wear the tudung.

Muhammad, the former Umno vice-president, is unhappy that Muslim women newsreaders and schoochildren did not wear the tudung.

"They say Islam, but look at the newsreaders not wearing headscarves. They say Islam, but there are schoolchildren who wear skirts," Muhammad was quoted by Bernama as saying.

Not only that, Muhammad thinks he has "seen the light" when he remarked that albeit its development, Selangor's progress was one that lacked "soul" which had resulted in the (moral) decline among children of affluent families in the cities.

How Muhammad came to that conclusion is anyone's guess. If he blames the Selangor government for the moral decay of its children, whom does he assign blame to in the case of off-springs of politicians going astray, indulging in vices of all sorts?



Higher royalty versus state ownership of Petronas

Posted: 29 Apr 2013 02:31 PM PDT

Give oil producing states some profit participating stake in Petronas via non-voting equity shares 

By Anas Alam Faizli, FMT

The oil royalty debacle is perhaps one of the popular components for both Barisan Nasional (BN) and Pakatan Rakyat (PR) as the nation approaches polling day on  May 5. In Kelantan, the "R" for "royalty" movement has in fact been proliferating, especially amongst PR supporters.

For years, we have seen the fight for royalty highlighted by the four producing states, namely Terengganu, Kelantan, Sabah and Sarawak.

While Kelantan continues with its ongoing battle for legitimacy of its claims under the Petroleum Development Act 1974, Sabah and Sarawak local dailies have been putting forth their plight for a bigger than 5% share over oil and gas incomes.

In an unprecedented move, PR in its Buku Jingga launched in December 2010 proposed an increase of oil royalty contributions from Petronas to state governments from 5% to 20%. This is again reiterated in its election manifesto. Upping the ante, BN too in its recently-launched manifesto has promised the same, albeit under a different name.  Whoever wins the next election, the four states will see increased revenue, if this promise is kept. But how will this change affect Petronas?

The truth behind the 20 percent royalty

First, we must know that royalties or cash payout as per PDA 1974 is cost charged to revenues, rather than a share of operating outcomes. Whatever income Petronas or oil operators get from selling oil and gas, royalties are entitled to the first cut. To illustrate, a barrel of oil sold for USD 100 will see USD 5 or USD 20 (depending on the percentage) immediately taken away as royalties. Only what is left after that and taxes, will be left for Petronas to recover its tremendous capital and operating costs, and to reimburse other oil operators and producers.

Imagine what it means in times of lower crude oil prices! This puts tremendous pressure on Petronas' profitability, which will ultimately affect revenues dispersed to the federal government as dividends. (Note that the federal government receives revenues from Petronas via multiple avenues; including royalties and taxes as the government, and dividends as Petronas shareholder).

Second, based on the above, a 20% oil royalty payment will potentially render many in-place existing Production Sharing Contracts (PSCs) unattractive. Without going too much into the intricacies of a PSC, oil operators like Shell and Exxon Mobil having operations in Malaysia, under the PSC, owe royalties and taxes to Malaysia but is then promised some form of "cost oil" and "profit oil".

The PSC essentially ensures Malaysia is compensated as much as possible for oil coming out of its territories, while these operators still makes some attractive margins for their productive efforts. Unless Petronas takes the entire hit from losing a further 15 percentage-points worth of revenues by promising the same profitability to oil operators, the attractiveness of PSCs will be unavoidably severed.

Third, it may be argued an incentive system by way of oil royalty leaves the states with no interest over the profitability of Petronas. This is only natural, as getting a first cut over oil incomes makes it too convenient to worry about the processes thereafter. Thus, states may not be too concerned if foreign operators are no longer incentivized to operate on Malaysian wells and use their valuable expertise on Malaysian oil wells, or if Petronas' long term productivity and sustainability is at stake.

Give shares to the states

The three points above highlight the few potential challenges in applying a 20% royalty contribution from Petronas to the state governments. After all, Petronas is one of Malaysia's few true success stories contributing to a large part of Malaysia's growth. Its sustainability without question is in the interest of all states and Malaysians alike.



G-men or grumpy old men in a free country

Posted: 29 Apr 2013 02:22 PM PDT

Government men, past or present, are rallying against the Barisan Nasional this time around.

By Syed Nadzri Syed Harun, FMT

Other than the mindless name-calling in cyberspace, one of the surest indicators that democracy is alive and kicking in Malaysia is the number of prominent G-men openly declaring their spunky support for the opposite side in this general election (GE).

G-men could also mean "grumpy" old fellas not happy with everything in post-retirement life. But for the purpose of this story in the thick of GE frenzy, the expression is restricted to the straightforward modern slang for "government men" past or present. And that makes "opposite side" mentioned above as referring appropriately to non-Barisan Nasional parties.

Of course the world already knows about the biggest G-man turning over in Anwar Ibrahim, a former deputy prime minister and big shot in the BN government.

He has trained his guns on BN for many years now.

But the streak of former disciplined G-men of the security forces distinctly rallying against BN this time around is quite mind-blowing.

Top of the list are retired generals and police commissioners no less, which shows that, contrary to what some people would like to believe, this is indeed a free country.

Movie star Michelle Yeoh was within this realm when she declared her open support for Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak a week ago. What was wrong with that? But she touched a raw nerve in some people.

At least six retired generals have joined Pakatan Rakyat either through PAS or PKR – former deputy army chief Lt Gen (Rtd) Abdul Ghafir Abdul Hamid, former chief of air logistics Brig-Gen (Rtd) Abdul Hadi Al-Khatab, former chief of staff logistics Navy fleet headquarters Rear Admiral (Rtd) Imran Abdul Hamid, former director of the Army Corps of religion Brig-Gen (Rtd) Najmi Ahmad, former chief of staff of the army Gen (Rtd) Md Hashim Hussein and former vice-chancellor of the National Defence University Lt Gen (Rtd) Ismail Samion.

Ghafir and Hashim (both PKR) are placed to bring firepower to Pakatan's serious effort to wrest Johor. They are fielded in parliamentary constituencies of Pasir Gudang and Johor Baru respectively.

Imran and Hadi (both PKR) are fielded in Perak in the parliamentary seat of Lumut and Behrang state seat respectively while Najmi (PAS) in Baling, Kedah. Ismail, a mechanical engineer by training, officially joined PAS last Thursday.

Cause for concern

On the police side, there is former federal criminal investigation director Fauzi Shaari standing as a PAS candidate in the Larut parliamentary constituency. Former federal commercial crimes director Ramli Yusoff is also said to be a strong supporter of PAS and at one time he was even considered to be a candidate in Pasir Mas to fight controversial Ibrahim Ali, a pro-BN independent.



Violence won’t translate into votes

Posted: 29 Apr 2013 02:17 PM PDT

As campaigning enters the final rounds, stories of violence are making headlines in the mainstream media.

Free Malaysia Today

True to form, the mainstream media went to town with stories and pictures of escalating violence in the run-up to the 13th general election. The blown-up photograph taken at night of the scene of a blast in one newspaper was clearly and delibrately played up to scare voters into believing that peace and harmony were in danger of going up in smoke. It was a cheap tactic employed to advance the interest of the ruling coalition under threat of going down in defeat.

The so-called escalating violence is used as a pretext to spread panic that Malaysia will descend into chaos if the attacks spiral out of control. Invariably the fingers will be wagged at the opposition for stirring up trouble. The opposition will be blamed for every blast including firecrackers even though it could be the work of the other side. If fighting erupts on the streets, the caretaker government can declare a state of emergency and call off the polls.

When emergency rule is in place the guns will be turned on the opposition force and its leaders may end up behind bars for causing mayhem. With the opposition crippled, the election will resume but under the barrel of the gun. Voters will be intimidated into casting their ballots for the same discredited rulers. But this scenario is unlikely to come to pass because the caretaker government has a weak case. No government can have the force of legitimacy if an election is not won fair and square.

The campaign is entering the last few laps and both camps are stepping up their verbal assaults against the background of "escalating" violence. For sure, here and there scuffles will break out, which will get "star" treatment in the state-controlled media. The ever-vigilant press will be ever ready to distort, twist, manipulate every incident in an all-out bid to poison and influence the minds of the voters. Any fatal shooting involving government officials will be subtly linked to the election battle. The line between truth and fiction will be blurred to serve the interests of the political masters.

Malaysians are no longer guillible. The story and picture of the bomb blast published in the newspaper was only greeted with disgust and anger. Disgust at the blatant attempt by the daily to create unnecessary alarm, and anger at the caretaker government for using the media platform to advance its agenda for victory at all cost. If any thing, the fear tactic will only backfire. The mood in the country is turning ugly with every passing day and the ruling party is not helping itself with its crude methods of swaying public opinion.

Not a good strategy

The crowds at the opposition rallies are getting bigger and bigger. This is a clear indication that the opposition alliance is scoring at the popularity stake. This also means that the ruling coalition is in deep trouble. Herein lies the danger: the caretaker commander may decide on something drastic to stop the inexorable march of its opponents to Putrajaya. How about lobbing a few Molotov cocktails into opposition gatherings? This can easily be done with the help of pro-government supporters or any bad hats paid handsomely to do the job. It will not work.




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